If you're using Intermittent Fasting, whether it be for gut health or weight loss purposes, how many times can you eat during your eating window? Do the number of meals matter? Today, we're diving into the details of how many meals you should be eating during your Intermittent Fasting eating window.
Can You Eat 3 Times A Day While Intermittent Fasting?
Three meals covers the typical break-fast, lunch and dinners that we're all used to (minus the snacks, of course). So are three meals per day permissible with Intermittent Fasting? Short answer, absolutely. In fact, the number of meals you fit within your eating window will depend on your schedule and the Intermittent Fasting length you choose. (Take my free quiz below to help determine your Intermittent Fasting schedule!)
Ideally, we're looking at 2-3 meals per day. The reason for this range comes down to how much protein you can get between these meals. Protein is typically the limiting factor because it is so satiating. And if you're looking to achieve a body recomposition goal where you're losing fat while gaining or maintaining muscle, getting enough protein will be one of the most important aspects of your meals.(1)
After working with thousands of people online and in-person, I've found that three meals tends to be the easiest route when aiming to get enough protein for the body's needs. However, this is highly individualized. Some people can get their protein between two meals whereas others get too full and need a third meal to divvy up the protein. They key is to experiment with 2 and 3 meal structures to see what works best for you and schedule.
How Long Should You Wait Between Your Meals While Intermittent Fasting?
The next logical question with this train of thought is "how long should you wait between meals?" If you're pairing your Intermittent Fasting schedule with a 2-3 meal structure, I would not stress too much about the length of time between meals. Because you are using a fasting period, you're already getting the boost in the gut cleaning process (the Migrating Motor Complex) as well as the studied dip in the fat storing hormone insulin while you fast.(2)
If there are days that you don't incorporate fasting, this is where spacing out your meals becomes more important because you are no longer reaping the benefits from your fast. With this in mind, if you have a non-fasting day, it's ideal to aim for at least 3 hours 45 minutes between meals. This gap between meals is to allow for one full cycle of the gut cleaning process (the Migrating Motor Complex, or MMC). If you wait longer than 3 hours 45 minutes between meals, you simply go into another round of the gut cleaning MMC.
What Should You Eat When You Break Your Fast?
One of the main perks of Intermittent Fasting is that it allows for natural dips in the storing hormone insulin.(2) In order to double down on these perks, it's important to focus meals around low insulin spiking foods that also keep you full and satisfied. This includes meals rich in high quality proteins and fats while low in starches and sugars. You can check out one of my favorite break-fast smoothie recipes that's optimized for protein and fat with the video below. If you're looking for more recipes and the step-by-step Intermittent Fasting guidance, you can dive into the Complete Intermittente Fasting Bundle with 100+ recipes and 8 weeks of meal-by-meal planning HERE.
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Autumn Elle Nutrition